Wrong exit, p.20
Wrong Exit, p.20Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan
J.T. fished in his pocket for a flash drive, unlocked a drawer under the booth and retrieved a laptop. He plugged in the flash drive and began an upload. “No problem, I always cooperate with my FBI friends. What are you looking for, if I might ask?”
Nick left the nightclub and headed to the precinct. He had put off going there until evening to avoid running into any Internal Affairs officers. Explaining the events of the day was going to be time consuming.
Wayne looked up from his desk and leaned back in his chair. “Have you looked in a mirror lately? Your sleeves are torn and it looks like blood on your pants.”
Nick looked down, “Not mine.” Nick started removing cell phones from his jacket pockets and placed them on Wayne’s desk. “Any chance I can talk you into helping me organize some of this?”
Wayne smiled, “I’ve been waiting for you to call me for backup. I’d rather play with phones than get shot.”
Nick started pushing phones toward Wayne. “This is Sharon Perez’s phone we found at the carjacking site. This is the ambulance passenger’s phone, Sharon drugged him to escape. This is the ambulance driver’s phone, he’s back in holding. This is Sal Cutler’s phone, he’s also in holding.” Nick held the last one up. “This is Antonio Scalla’s phone, the Sunrise Hospital Administrator. He’s in the D.A. lockup.”
Wayne labeled evidence tags as Nick described them. He looked up and smiled, “You’ve been busy.”
Nick tossed his torn suit jacket in the wastebasket next to the chair and rolled up his shirt sleeves. He glanced at Wayne’s white board. “Can we change your board? Wait…I probably need a second board anyway. I’ll go get the Chief’s.”
Wayne held up an index finger. “You might want to check that he’s gone before you go down that hall.”
Nick grinned. “Use my name in vain, did he?”
Wayne grinned back. “We moved way past vain. That was just the warm-up.”
Nick turned left at the end of the hall and saw the Chief at his desk on the phone. The Chief saw him instantly and stood up. He waved Nick to come in. He was not smiling.
Nick entered the room and closed the door behind him. The Chief pointed to the chair across from his desk. Nick sat.
The Chief mouthed ‘Mayor’s office’ and frowned as he listened to his caller. “I appreciate your position, Sir. As soon as I have been briefed on the status of this case I’ll call you.” The Chief rolled his eyes. “I am aware of the time, Sir. Yes, I have your number. Thank you, Sir.”
The Chief ended the call and stared at Nick for a moment. “Does my voice seem higher to you tonight? My balls are suddenly in a poker-hot vice.”
Nick squirmed in his seat as a sympathetic gesture. “Let me hazard a guess… your balls have something to do with me?”
A flash of anger passed over the Chief’s face and was quickly replaced with a sudden outburst of laughter. “Damn it, Stryker! Bring me up to speed.”
Nick spent the next twenty minutes giving the Chief a blow by blow accounting of the day beginning with the discovery of the body bags at the brewery and ending with the arrest of Tony Scalla. The Chief had been taking notes and looked up. “I’m confused…what does all of this have to do with the three people that came in here and claimed to have murdered you?”
Nick explained that they were victims of a software program designed to hypnotize people into dissociative stages and manipulate their actions.
Nick said, “The developer of the software, Dr. Derrick Sanford, sold the program to raise the money for his daughter’s transplant surgery at Sunrise Hospital. She was shot tonight…probably by someone hypnotized to shoot Sanford.”
The Chief rubbed his temples and moaned.
Nick added, “The FBI wants the software case but that case has some of my players. I want them all.”
“Of course you do.” The Chief pushed his chair back and exhaled. “Where’s Jen?”
“She’s arranging a safe place and security for Sharon Perez. Lucas Costellano is probably just now finding out that we have her. She heard her kidnappers use the name ‘Lucas’, twice. She also picked out Antonio Scalla from a photo lineup as being the man that took a skin sample from her arm and injected her with drugs. I can’t make these cases without her.”
The Chief shook his head. “You see it all in this job but I think this takes the cake. How many missing persons have you tied to the cars at the dump site? Twelve?” He rolled his neck and sighed. “Tomorrow we’ll have the press all over us.” He pointed at Nick. “You’ll have to spend some time with Internal Affairs. We have multiple incident reports of officer involved shootings. Most of them are you! I’ll do my best to pressure them for speed. You’re in the middle of this…they can have you at the end.”
“Thanks Chief.” Nick stood and walked to the door and then turned, “Chief? There’s a motorcycle that needs to be replaced.”
“I heard. The owner stopped in to say he wants the old one back, too. He plans to put it in a Plexiglas box in his man cave. Wants to know if you’ll sign the gas tank.”
Nick grabbed the Chief’s white board, pushed it through the door and grinned. “I need this.”
J.T. watched as Agent Phillips left the nightclub. Phillips didn’t mention that the FBI had received the tip from Lucas that he had bought the software program from Sanford. Of course Lucas wouldn’t have identified himself. Phillips had no reason to come to the nightclub without the tip. Lucas was probably feeling smug. J.T. knew that feeling wouldn’t last. By now, the FBI had probably found the transfer of funds from Lucas to Sanford. Now, they would want Sanford and Lucas, not him.
J.T. smiled as he signaled the waiter for another drink. Too bad they would never find Sanford. Lucas was going to face serious trouble with the Family. The level of attention that Sunrise Hospital was garnering would be enough to put Lucas on the wrong list. Soon, the FBI linking Lucas to this software program would finish him off.
Lucas instructed his driver to take the shortest way back to his home. What had started out a promising date, listening to Buddy Guy at Legends, had ended poorly. Now all he could think about was a vodka and a relaxing swim in his pool.
His cell rang. The caller I.D. wasn’t showing. “Yes?”
“Lucas? This is Alderman Miles. What’s this shit about Tony being arrested and the hospital on lockdown?”
J.T.’s cell rang. He was just leaving the nightclub for home. It was the Family calling.
“This is J.T.”
“Are you aware of the problems with Lucas’ operation today?”
J.T. had to be careful with his answer. If he admitted to knowing, he would have to explain not warning the Family. If he claimed not to know, they would wonder about his usefulness.
J.T. said, “I heard this afternoon that he had been making some personnel changes.”
A long pause on the other end indicated the caller didn’t share J.T.’s humorous view of the situation. “You mean where he killed three of his own men and the cops killed another four? Did you know Tony Scalla was arrested and Sunrise is being searched as we speak?”
J.T. didn’t know about Sunrise. “What do you want?”
“We just took a vote. Lucas is out.”
“It can’t be me. I’ve got a little heat of my own right now. Nothing serious, but I’m not willing to risk it.”
“Fine. We’ll put together a team. Send us a list of his assets. He’ll have to pay for this problem.”
J.T. hung up and opened his file on Lucas’ assets. He copied the file and sent it to the Family boss. Who said the mob didn’t have a sense of humor? Only in the mob did you pay for your own hit. Every penny in Lucas’ accounts would disappear through a dark web of untraceable offshore transfers.
J.T. tossed his laptop on the passenger seat. The hit would likely be tomorrow. J.T. turned the i
Kevin succeeded in convincing Sharon to stay at Peter’s house until it was safe for her to go home. It warmed his heart to hear Peter, Dolly and Cynthia scream into the phone “Come here!” to Sharon. She had actually teared up hearing their voices. Jen made arrangements for two patrol units to guard Peter’s house. She also put a unit at Sharon’s grandmother’s house, where Sharon actually lived, in case someone showed up there.
Jen escorted Sharon into Peter’s living room and Dolly made the introductions. Kevin and Darla arrived moments later and Jen had them all sit down for a quick meeting.
“It might be best if Darla, Dolly and Cynthia go to their own homes tonight. You should all be safe. Every one of us has had a stressful day and needs a good night’s sleep.”
Dolly glanced at Darla, “You want to stay at my place tonight?”
“Yep. I figured you’d be scared and all.” Darla got a sneaky smile on her face. “I’ll tell you about a great idea I got for a new business for us.”
Dolly narrowed her eyes. “Us? You got this idea today, in the middle of chasing kidnappers?”
“A detective agency! I’m a natural!”
Dolly looked at Kevin.
Kevin shrugged and said, “She is pretty good.”
Darla added, “It’s low overhead, too. All it cost was gas money and a box of Twinkies.”
Dolly said, “I’m not even askin’.”
Cynthia looked at Peter, “I should go home, too.”
Peter took her hand. “Can I call you?”
Cynthia’s face broke out in a smile.
Darla said, “For God’s sake, pick a day for a first date and move on! We’re all tired here.” Dolly smiled as Darla mumbled, “Crazy fruitcakes.”
Peter said his ‘good-byes’ and retreated to his room.
Kevin led Sharon to the kitchen table. He made her a cup of tea and sat down across from her. “I’m not leaving tonight. You take a shower and go to bed. I’ll be right in the living room on the couch. Between Peter, myself and the cops you’ll be safe. We can start working on your story tomorrow. I’m calling Jack to let him know. This is going to be epic.”
Kevin exhaled and willed his breathing to regulate. Sharon somehow looked both fragile and fearless. “I feel responsible that you ended up in this mess. My God, you were almost killed.”
Sharon could see the pain in Kevin’s eyes. She felt safe for the first time all day. Kevin made her feel special and safe.
She leaned across the table and kissed him. Then she stood, took her cup of tea and walked to the guest bedroom and shut the door.
Kevin still felt the warmth of Sharon’s lips. “Epic.”
Jen walked into the 107th precinct to find Wayne and Nick filling up two white boards with info. One board was labeled ‘organs’, one ‘software’. Jen plopped on her chair and twisted it to look at Sam. She hadn’t seen him since early morning.
“What are you doing here?”
Sam glanced over, “I.A. has Wayne on desk duty for ‘officer involved shooting’. I just finished up with the crime techs and evidence logs from this morning’s circus.”
“Yeah, I missed that.” Jen had actually forgotten there had been three men shot at the precinct. They were never going to have the reports done from today. “What can I do to help?”
Sam looked at his watch, “It’s ten o’clock. Talk Nick into going home. We can start fresh in the morning.”
Nick heard Sam and turned from the white board. He put his marker on the rack and smiled. “Sam’s right. Let’s start fresh in the morning.”
Jen was glad to go home but suspicious. She walked over to Nick. “You’re not going home are you?”
Nick answered, “No. I’m going to Lacey’s. Then home…honest.”
Jen wagged her index finger at him, “No chasing down bad guys unless you call me first. Promise?”
Lacey hadn’t been home ten minutes when the buzzer sounded at the front door. She looked at her security camera and saw Nick grinning at her.
“What’s the secret password?”
Nick looked thoughtful and then said, “I have three. I love you.”
“Close enough.” She buzzed him in.
Jen tiptoed through the condo. The lights were off meaning John had already gone to bed. She entered the bedroom silently and rested her pistol on the dresser. As she grabbed a towel for her shower John said, “I love you.”
Jen walked over to the bed and sat next to him. “I love you, too. Did I wake you?”
“I hadn’t gone to sleep yet. Have you seen the news?”
“It seems the cops have closed down Sunrise Hospital. Was that you?”
“You want to talk about it?”
Jen leaned in close to kiss him. “Nope.”
Derrick leaned into the back passenger door as the thug next to him kept a pistol pointed at his head. He could feel his can of Prestone De-Icer spray cutting into his hip. There was alcohol in that spray and it had a high pressure, long-shot stream. It was not exactly his weapon of choice, but it was the only one available. A shudder of fear ran up his spine. His heart pounded. Now, could he actually do it? Yes. If these men killed him, it would mean J.T. had won.
The driver of the S.U.V. was careful not to break any traffic laws. Wherever they were taking him had already been decided. There was no conversation and no outward signs of nervousness. Derrick realized that these guys had done this before.
Derrick had to get out of this vehicle. It was hard to think clearly. He was probably still in shock. Traffic was slowing down for a construction zone ahead. This was the perfect place to escape. It would be miles before the S.U.V. would be able to turn around and come after him. He slid his hand between his hip and the door and felt the De-Icer can. He glanced quickly to locate the button to unlock his door. He guessed that there was a man following them in another car. He had watched the man driving his S.U.V. checking the rear view mirror. The odds of him being able to roll out of a moving vehicle and not get run over or hurt badly were slim. The odds of him being able to get up and run after that were even slimmer. On the flip side of those risks, he had one big advantage. He was already dead inside. Heather was gone. He had nothing left to lose.
He wrapped his right hand around the can and felt for the nozzle. The car had slowed to a near stop. A highway construction worker held a large red sign that said ‘slow’. He waved the traffic past a vehicle sized hole in the pavement surrounded by orange cones and men with jackhammers. As soon as they passed the construction cones Derrick raised the can and sprayed the eyes of the man next to him. He unlocked the door, threw it open and sprayed the driver’s face before jumping out.
He rolled to the edge of the shoulder, hurdled the guard rail and then ran into the adjoining Walmart parking lot as fast as he could. A row of tightly parked cars gave him refuge to assess his injuries. Surprisingly, he was fine. A loud thud nearby nearly stopped his heart. He peeked through the spaces between cars and saw a young man unloading a cart into the bed of a truck. Derrick stood and walked quickly over to the young man.
“Young man? I find myself in an awkward situation and in dire need of a ride to Drake Street. Might I pay you for that ride?”
The young man looked skeptical. Derrick pulled his wallet out and counted off five one hundred dollar bills. “Would $500.00 do?”
The young man’s face broke out in a big smile. “You must be running from cops.”
Derrick shook his head, “Bad guys. Cops are probably next.”
Agent Phillips had just arrived at his condo when his phone rang. His team had located Sanford’s S.U.V. abandoned near
Derrick sat in Heather’s apartment with the lights off. It was only a matter of time before the police would look for him there. In the meantime, he used his phone to transfer some of his office programs to Heather’s computer. As soon as he finished, he walked six blocks and slipped his phone into the pocket of a drunk leaving a bar.
He walked back to Heather’s apartment. He felt close to her in the midst of all of her belongings. Tears began to rush from his eyes. His heart ached so badly he imagined a sword protruding from his chest. Then came the sobs. With his head buried in his hands, he sat at the kitchen table and lost himself in his grief. Hours passed. A shrill scream of passing sirens slowly faded in the distance but left him with a lingering thought.
The FBI was looking for him.
Derrick wiped his face with his sleeves and willed his heartbeat and breathing back to normal. He didn’t have time for a pity party. He needed a solid plan to revenge Heather’s murder.
He glanced at the cookie jar he had given Heather for Christmas. He had showed her the secret bottom and put five thousand dollars there for her. He walked over and twisted the bottom. Hundred dollar bills floated to the counter. Heather had never used any of it. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He took a deep breath. Could he really do this? Could he revenge Heather’s death? He put the bills in his wallet, grabbed Heather’s laptop and stepped outside to catch a cab.
The cabby suggested a modest motel a few miles away. Derrick sat expressionless in a near daze as the brilliant colored lights of the city washed through the cab creating a fascinating and hypnotic strobe light. Each bright color beckoning the living to stop and take notice.
Derrick’s thoughts returned to Heather. She would never see colored lights again. His soul had turned into a burnished, black mass, cemented by hate. Hate for himself for developing the program. Hate for J.T. for using it.
10:00 a.m. Tuesday, 107th precinct
Wayne and Jen reviewed the GPS histories of the dumped cars and mapped them for the District Attorney’s evidence file. They had two piles. One was the GPS history of the hospital’s grey van and the other was the GPS histories of the cars found at the dump site. The GPS histories didn’t lie. Exit 141 was the car-jacking location and the parking lot behind the vacated rail building was the dump site. The victims had been transported to the brewery and later to the hospital.
Wrong Exit by Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on38 votes